Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Positive Birth Movement: What It Is and How to Get Involved

Too many women are not having a positive birth experience. A positive birth experience does not always have to be a natural, blissful, drug free birth. But it does have to be a birth in which a woman feels she has had freedom of choice, access to accurate information, and that she is in control, powerful and respected. And it should also be a birth that she approaches with some trepidation, yes, but without fear or dread, and a birth that she then goes on to enjoy, and later remember with warmth and pride.

Currently, we are stuck in a loop that is hard to break. It goes something like this:

The 'Fear Becomes Fact' Cycle of Negativity

Often, when as birth activists we try to address this loop, we focus, quite rightly, on what happens in the hospital. We wish there was less intervention, we question how much of it is necessary, and we shake our fists at the doctors who anaesthetise, yank and cut away women's hopes of a natural or positive experience. But what if we let that be, and tried to break the cycle at a different point? What if we challenged the information, feelings and negative expectations that are held in women's minds and hearts as they feel the first tightenings of labour? What if women walked towards the hospital reception with an entirely different mind-set?

This week I launched The Positive Birth Movement. The Movement aims to break the Fear Becomes Fact Cycle by spreading positive messages about childbirth. We aim to tackle the current negativity about labour and birth in the following ways:

1. By building a network of peer to peer Positive Birth discussion groups, which will be free for all women to access.
2. By ensuring that all pregnant women are made aware of this network and can gain easy access to a local group.
3. By using social media to build an umbrella Positive Birth group, to which all smaller groups can feed back.
4. By encouraging the sharing of expertise, information and positivity in the umbrella group.
5. By sharing and challenging 'human rights in childbirth' issues via the umbrella group.
6. By promoting positive messages about childbirth.

This is a movement in its very first days of life! So it will certainly change, evolve and grow with time. But for now, our main focus is the building of a network of groups to Meet Up, Link Up and Shake Up Birth! Here's how:

Meet Up - organise a regular gathering, discussion group or meeting to talk about themes related to Positive Birth.

Link Up - use social media to link up these groups to build a global network of support and positivity. Take advantage of the expertise, solidarity, power and clout of the network. Gain advice and support on anything from niggling birth questions to human rights issues. Or just spread some positivity!

Shake Up - Challenge the culture of fear and negativity that surrounds birth, and the negative messages that women and girls receive. Support and empower pregnant women and help them to approach birth with a completely different mind-set.

Want to set up a Positive Birth group? 

If you would like to set up a Positive Birth group, here's how to get started:

Who can Facilitate?
Anyone can create a Positive Birth group. You might be a doula, midwife or birth worker, or just have a passion for positive birth. You are not required to be an 'expert', the idea is simply to 'facilitate' (the definition of which is 'to make easy'). You can 'make it easy' for women to gather, communicate, support each other and share information quite easily. All you need to do is set a date for a meeting, either in your house, or a local cafe, hall or other venue, as you prefer. Let The Positive Birth Movement know about your group and we will add you to the network.

Who should attend?
Pregnant women, birth workers, and anyone interested in positive birth. However, if your group is entirely made up of birth workers, you might use the opportunity to brainstorm how you can reach more pregnant women, or other ways you could make a difference.

How often should we meet?
This is up to you, but it would be helpful if it could be at least monthly, and regular, for example, the first Monday of each month. This would make it easier for pregnant women to access.

How should we structure our meetings?
This is up to you. If we are going to 'trust birth', we need to trust women to follow their intuition when it comes to running these groups! You might like to start by introducing a topic for discussion and stating the purpose of the group. You might also like to decide whether the group will be confidential. At the end of the group you might like to summarise what you have discussed and make sure that any questions or issues that are outstanding have been noted so that they can be fed back to the online umbrella group.

Can I charge for a group?
No. All Positive Birth groups must be free and not for profit. However, if you are hiring a hall for your meeting you may like to share the cost between you.

Any other Do's or Don'ts?
Not really. I don't really want The Positive Birth Movement to become just another bureaucratic and controlling establishment! All I would say is to remember that the main aim is positivity and that this should mean respect for women and their choices. Remember to listen and facilitate, rather than try to teach or preach. This is not about evangelising home birth or drug free birth. This is about empowering women to approach birth differently and to expect and enjoy a positive birth - whatever that means to them.

If you would like to facilitate a group, please get in touch with me with the details. 

A suggested topic for November is 'Planning a Positive Birth' - more info and suggestions to follow, and to be found on the Facebook group.

Even if you cannot facilitate or attend a group, please join us on Facebook and Twitter and help us to grow this idea, and transform the Fear Becomes Fact cycle into... Positivity Becomes Fact! 

If you have any thoughts, ideas, questions or suggestions please email me 

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